This is without a doubt the least surprising thing I’ll say in this column…but the 2020-21 is going to be weird. I mean, it already is weird. No preseason games…very little hype…and even fewer major stories to look out for as the season begins this week. It’s like an alternate universe in some ways.
If I were to make a bet today, I would go against the grain and say that all 256 regular season games and 13 playoff games will be played; none will be cancelled due to team outbreaks. For you gamblers out there, it’s probably a +300 bet but I’m hopeful that the amount of testing teams are administering will help prevent massive outbreaks.
Here at Cohen’s Corner, I’ll be picking every NFL game weekly and for those of you who enjoy it, the College Football ‘Expert Picks’ will be coming back in some form this week. If there’s a season, with at least some teams playing, then I’ll be making picks. For most of us, football is what we look forward to most in the sports world.
In the meantime, this NFL season picks column is my favorite to write each year. I’ve once again picked every regular season game via the red / green matrix below…and last year, almost pathetically, my preseason picks were only ONE game worse than my weekly picks. For my sake I hope that isn’t the case in 2020-21.
Also below are my Week 1 picks, quick thoughts, and best bets…enjoy!
First, the regular season matrix with picks for all 256 regular season games:
Looking at that grid may give you a headache so time to simplify things with regular season records and playoff picks:
Trying to separate the tiebreakers among Wild Card teams in both conferences plus all the 11-5s in the NFC was a borderline nightmare but I did my best. Obviously I think we’ll see a good amount of parity in 2020-21 due to the lack of practice time, offseason minicamps, training camp, and preseason games.
As you’ll see below, I think the AFC comes down to the Ravens and Chiefs, who have by far the two best QBs in the conference. In the NFC it’s an absolute crapshoot. Yes, I’m buying into the Tom Brady hype in Tampa Bay…but picking against Drew Brees in likely his final season also feels risky.
The most difficult division seems to be the NFC West, where I could make postseason arguments for all four teams. And while I wanted to pick my Packers to take a leap from NFC Championship Game to Super Bowl, their first half schedule is brutal plus the Aaron Rodgers / Jordan Love draft saga is present, so I’ll pass.
It’s weird to have chosen a first year coach, Mike McCarthy, who ran the most ultra-conservative, garbage offense towards the end of his time in Green Bay, to take his team to the Super Bowl. But Dallas is LOADED…and Dak Prescott is playing for a gargantuan contract this offseason. Cowboys-Ravens it is…but Baltimore, ever since they lost to Tennessee last January, has been my choice and I’m sticking to it.
Awards and Superlatives
MVP: Patrick Mahomes (QB, Chiefs)
Offensive Player of the Year: Lamar Jackson (QB, Ravens)
Defensive Player of the Year: T.J. Watt (DE, Steelers)
Offensive Rookie of the Year: Joe Burrow (QB, Bengals)
Defensive Rookie of the Year: Isaiah Simmons (LB, Cardinals)
Coach of the Year: Vic Fangio (Broncos)
Passing Yards Leader: Dak Prescott (Cowboys)
Rushing Yards Leader: Saquon Barkley (Giants)
Receiving Yards Leader: Davante Adams (Packers)
Week 1 Picks
Last Week: 0-0 Straight Up (SU), 0-0 Against the Spread (ATS)
Overall: 0-0 SU, 0-0 ATS
Last Season: 157-98-1 SU, 128-128 ATS
(Picks against the spread in parentheses; HOME TEAMS IN CAPS)
KANSAS CITY CHIEFS 34, Houston Texans 27 (ATS: Texans +9.5)
NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS 20, Miami Dolphins 16 (ATS: Dolphins +6.5)
MINNESOTA VIKINGS 23, Green Bay Packers 17 (ATS: Vikings -2.5)
Indianapolis Colts 28, JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS 16 (ATS: Colts -7.5)
BALTIMORE RAVENS 30, Cleveland Browns 23 (ATS: Browns +8.5)
Seattle Seahawks 32, ATLANTA FALCONS 28 (ATS: Seahawks -1.5)
BUFFALO BILLS 23, New York Jets 10 (ATS: Bills -6.5)
Philadelphia Eagles 24, WASHINGTON FOOTBALL TEAM 20 (ATS: Washington +6.5)
DETROIT LIONS 24, Chicago Bears 19 (ATS: Lions -3.5)
CAROLINA PANTHERS 26, Las Vegas Raiders 23 (ATS: Panthers +2.5)
CINCINNATI BENGALS 26, Los Angeles Chargers 20 (ATS: Bengals +3.5)
SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS 27, Arizona Cardinals 23 (ATS: Cardinals +7.5)
NEW ORLEANS SAINTS 33, Tampa Bay Buccaneers 26 (ATS: Saints -3.5)
Dallas Cowboys 27, LOS ANGELES RAMS 23 (ATS: Cowboys -2.5)
Pittsburgh Steelers 28, NEW YORK GIANTS 20 (ATS: Steelers -4.5)
DENVER BRONCOS 23, Tennessee Titans 16 (ATS: Broncos -1.5)
5 Quick Thoughts on Week 1
1. It’s a yearly tradition – watch out for the home ‘dogs to win outright. There are seven on the board but I’m only, probably stupidly, picking two of them: Carolina and Cincinnati.
2. My buddy, who is as sharp as they come when it comes to season-long futures bets, loves the Broncos this season. Them giving only 1.5 at home on MNF seems like a gift.
3. Up above in the column, I said the Ravens and Chiefs were by far the two top teams in the AFC. Both are playing at home in Week 1 and yet I’m fading the points on both. Seems like I’m setting myself up to fail, right?
4. I would be stunned if the Falcons-Seahawks game doesn’t hit the over. MAX PLAY alert! I’m not sold on either defense and dating back to 2007, the over is 7-2 when these two teams play (although last year wasn’t one of those overs, a 27-20 Seattle win).
5. Also looking for a max play alert for a season prop bet – first coach to be fired: Adam Gase of the Jets (+800). That team is going to stink and it seems like Gase doesn’t get along well with the players nor the front office. Some guys are better off being coordinators / position coaches.
Week 1 Betting Locks
(Last Week’s Result, Season Record in Parentheses)
Favorite (0-0): Broncos -1.5 vs. Titans
Underdog (0-0): Cardinals +7.5 at 49ers
Bet the Over (0-0): Seahawks / Falcons Over 49
Bet the Under (0-0): Dolphins / Patriots Under 43